Nourishing Fertility: Dietary Fats For Specific Female Conditions
On its own a high fat diet isn’t likely to correct specific fertility challenges. Sorry butter and bacon lovers. Some things require us to dig a little deeper than non-specific advice like “eat a moderate to high fat diet”or “be paleo or keto”. We need to look at the types of fats that best serve us based on circumstance. My last post was a broad view on the importance of dietary fats for fertility, this one is a deeper dive.
In this post I narrow down the importance of dietary fat for the most common fertility challenges. The focus is on female fertility challenges like endometriosis, PCOS, short luteal phase and anovulation. Read it all or skip right to the health challenge you are dealing with. Let’s start with endometriosis.
Specific Dietary Fats By Condition
Endometriosis is a disease characterized by very painful inflammation, especially during that time of the month. Uterine tissue builds up outside of the uterus in areas such as the fallopian tubes or on the outside of the ovarian walls. This build up causes pain as well as blocks the pathway of eggs on their journey from ovary to uterus.
Inflammation causes it all to worsen by swelling the tissues and creating even tighter pathways. The right fats decrease inflammation via anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. This makes the journey of a fertilized egg much more likely to be successful and less likely to develop ectopic pregnancies.
Fats that increase anti-inflammatory prostaglandins are:
- black currant seed oil
- evening primrose oil
- borage oil
- fish oils
- cold water fish and their eggs
Fats that increase pro-inflammatory prostaglandins are saturated fats such as:
- organ meats
- red meat
- egg yolks
- butter or ghee
- shell fish
- coconut oil
That doesn’t make these fats “bad” and inflammation is necessary for balanced health. However, in endometriosis, especially in the first half of the cycle, it is important to eat these fats in moderation.
Its also important to note that certain things like alcohol, insulin, trans fats, NSAIDS, aspirin, and steroids can block the body’s ability to create the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Get the right fats into the diet, avoid refined carbohydrate, and NSAIDS while trying to conceive with endometriosis. If you find yourself needing NSAIDS and not knowing where to turn, essential oils and other doTERRA products can help!
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. In PCOS, the ovaries don’t fully mature and release an egg each month. The immature eggs stack up on the surface of the ovaries which creates a bumpy appearance. Like endometriosis PCOS is also perpetuated by inflammation and comes with pain, hormonal imbalances, troublesome weight gain, acne, male pattern hair growth and unfortunately, infertility.
As mentioned above, insulin derails the processes that allow anti-inflammatory agents to be built. This definitely worsens PCOS. That’s not the biggest reason to focus on the right dietary fats though. Insulin has the ability to derail the way the ovaries respond to their signaling hormones. When ovaries don’t have this good communication with signaling hormones ovulation can’t completely occur. In other words, when we over-rely on carbohydrate for fuel instead of fats we consistently bathe the ovaries in insulin and disallow them to react to their instructions.
In order to avoid PCOS and its complications the main fix is to reduce reliance on carbs for fuel in favor of fats. Beneficial fats for PCOS include the same anti-inflammatory ones as endometriosis which are listed above. Due to the fact that PCOS is as much of an insulin problem as an inflammation problem the diet can include more of the saturated pro-inflammatory fats also listed above. This approach balances insulin resistance which contributes to the correct action of hormones on the ovaries. Then ovulation can happen and babies can be made!
Short Luteal Phase
To make babies and have predictable cycles we need enough progesterone. Progesterone is responsible for maintaining the luteal phase, or the second half of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase is the part of the cycle after ovulation has happened. It must be long enough to give a fertilized egg enough time to attach itself to the uterine lining before it sheds. Progesterone is created from cholesterol. In this type of fertility challenge eating the saturated fats like dairy, including butter, coconut products, eggs, and animal fats as part of a balanced diet is ideal.
There are other reasons that progesterone could be ineffective, such as being out of balance with estrogen. Estrogen and progesterone must exist in balance. Sometimes avoidance of certain fats is as important as the inclusion of others. Leave soy oils out of your diet if you are dealing with this sort of problem. Detoxing your life and gently assisting the liver are also great ways to normalize the estrogen to progesterone ratio. Simultaneously getting enough saturated fat, avoiding soy, and detoxing your life is a great recipe for success in buying enough time for that baby to stick!
Getting a baby to stick isn’t possible if ovulation never occurs. When a woman doesn’t ovulate its called anovulation. This is usually due to a lack of certain hormones being produced that tell the ovaries to drop an egg. One very common reason this happens is that the woman has too low of a body fat percentage. In this case the body thinks it is starving and won’t allow for conception due to low nutrient stores.
This is common among athletes and was a driving factor in my own sub-fertility. I did increase my body fat percentage along the way, but not technically enough to come into an acceptable range for fertility. I ate more carbs to increase my body fat, but I was still lifting heavy weights and all those carbs turned to muscle not fat. I firmly believe that the diverse and moderate to high amount of fats in my diet allowed me to take in and absorb enough nutrients that I ovulated DESPITE my low body fat.
The body doesn’t ovulate in low body fat situations because the overall message is that the woman isn’t getting enough nutrients to grow a baby. I don’t believe that this is simply an issue of how much fat is on the body, but how well nourished the body is.
Wrapping It Up
Nourishing the body for fertility can be tricky. If you know what your fertility trouble is then there are ways to focus on correction. One of the best things you can do to nourish your fertility is to consume targeted healthy fats as part of a balanced diet. Try this out for yourself to reduce troublesome inflammation, avoid the issues that arise with high or constant insulin output, and in general get enough nutrients to allow the body to naturally conceive a child. There are unfortunately digestive challenges, nutrient deficiencies and other coexisting problems that can arise that make fat utilization difficult even when you are getting plenty of the good stuff. If you want help taking a deeper look at your fertility or hormonal concerns contact me today!
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